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CHCI Alumni Highlight: Shaimaa Lazem

February 9, 2022

Shaimaa Lazem is an Associate Research Professor at City for Scientific Research and Technological Applications, Alexandria, Egypt. She earned her PhD in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at Virginia Tech, class of 2012 (advisor: Denis Gracanin).  She then returned to her home country Egypt, where she experienced first-hand the disconnect between teaching and practicing HCI in Western and non-Western contexts. Lazem is currently working on designing and deploying an HCI curriculum for AI start-ups in Africa as part of a Google Research for Inclusion award. Her focus is on fostering and embedding a human-centered innovation process and raising awareness of contemporary discussions on ethics, bias, fairness, and social justice in AI systems. 

Lazem is passionate about HCI education. She designed hands-on HCI short courses and trained 130+ Egyptian students to create prototypes of affordable technologies that serve the needs of rural Egyptian communities. She is a Leaders-in-Innovation Fellow with the Royal Academy of Engineering in London since 2018, and the co-founder of the ArabHCI community, an initiative that aims at recognising and promoting HCI research and education in Arab countries. She is the recipient of Google 2020 Award for Inclusion Research in partnership with Prof. Anicia Peters from University of Namibia, where they work to design HCI curriculum for African AI startups.

Her HCI training at VT played a great role in nourishing her critical thinking skills, which allowed her to critically examine the blind application of Western HCI epistemologies and practices in the Global South. Her research interests include co-design, participatory design, post-colonial computing, and decolonizing HCI. Her previous projects included designing educational and heritage technologies for rural populations in Egypt. Shaimaa describes her training in HCI at VT this way, “Surrounded by the diverse projects in CHCI, one sees the broader landscape that is HCI research. I was encouraged to further learn about theories and methods beyond the scope of my PhD. This was invaluable to my career path, where I critically engage with the adaptation and appropriation of HCI methods in non-Western cultures and contexts.”